I’ll be the first to admit I’m not into sports. I don’t have any particular problem with them, I’ve just never been interested in learning the rules. I’ve only attended a total of three Aztec basketball games during my tenure at San Diego State, and the most I hear about athletics is through occasional texts from my father who informs me when one of SDSU’s teams beats my brother’s school. I realize my unenthusiastic feelings put me in the minority com- pared to my peers, but our difference of interests is never what bothered me. However, I do sometimes worry my overall college experience is missing something because of my lack of sports enthusiasm. I’ve been missing out on school spirit.
SDSU has not traditionally been known for its supreme athletics or school pride. But with this past year’s monumental athletic accomplishments, it’s hard not to notice things have been heating up. Stu- dents line up at ridiculous hours of the morning to get coveted basket- ball tickets and crowd the stands at baseball and soccer games. While I doubt the happiness of every person who participates in such activities actually depends on the outcome of the game, these people seem to truly enjoy themselves. I believe this must be because they know something I don’t. The only thing I can think of is they have found a connection to a community. They have found something positive to believe in that creates common ground for more than 30,000 students. That’s more than I can say about myself and it makes me wonder if there is more to supporting collegiate sports than watching other students throw, kick or hit a ball around.
Even schools that are not as athletically successful as SDSU, with our record-breaking 12 Mountain West Conference titles last year, work extensively to support school pride on campus. It just so happens that with this year’s astounding athletic accomplishments at SDSU, it’s a little easier for students to get on board the “Go-Aztecs” train. I’m certainly not accusing anyone of bandwagon fandom, mainly be- cause I am in no position to judge any sports fans, but I am crediting our student athletes with the high accomplishment of unifying our campus. They have done their part in giving the rest of the student body something to be excited about. Now is the time for the stragglers, such as myself, to find pride in being a part of the school, even if they find the sports themselves uninteresting.
A strong sense of school pride and community has long been a positive aspect of collegiate sports, providing leverage against the critics of huge budgets and preferential treatment for athletic programs. But these programs don’t deserve to be taken lightly. According to a 2011 study in the Journal of Issues of Intercollegiate Athletics, a stronger sense of community on college campuses “consistently has been linked to positive student outcomes such as lower drug use, better academic performance, and higher student retention.”
Other studies have shown how powerful feelings of unity on cam- pus create easier paths of integration into the student body. For incoming freshmen or transfer students, having this connection to the rest of the student body is crucial to their immediate happiness at the university. Those who are already part of the campus community may channel the pride and loyalty they feel to- ward their school to propel their individual academic careers forward. That may be a bit idealistic for what school spirit can do, but the sentiment is real—it is up to us Aztecs to choose how to use it.
By choosing to view our school as one community, family or team, albeit a large one, students can find pride in their peers’ accomplishments and urge themselves to pursue excellence. As I mentioned before this may be a utopian view of the affects of winning a few games, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.
There are benefits in supporting our peers who do and in recognizing the accomplishments of those on the field, even for those of us who will likely never find the appeal in watching a baseball game. The point is not to force unwilling spectators to pre- tend to enjoy themselves. Instead, we should merely view ourselves as a singular community and be proud of whatever goals our fellow Aztecs pursue. I may never care who made the winning goal, and that person may never care about anything I write for the student newspaper, but hopefully we can at least find mutual happiness in how our fellow Aztecs have found their ways to contribute to the community.